Organization seeks to end human trafficking

A Thai government official met Thursday with local nonprofit organizations to learn how the U.S. is combating the problem.

One night, Elsa Batica answered a frantic phone call from a woman who whispered, “I need to get out of here.”

Sexually and physically abused by her husband and other men, the caller, a new immigrant from the Philippines, didn’t know who to ask for help. She was randomly flipping through the phone book trying to see if she could recognize a Filipino name.

She found Batica, who is the founding member the Filipino American Women’s Network Minnesota chapter, an organization that provides support for trafficked women and helps them escape from abusive partners.

As a part of the International Visitor Leadership Program, the Minnesota International Center invited Thai government official Ranee Wongprajuablap, who met Thursday with Batica’s FAWN and other local nonprofit organizations, to learn from the ways the United States is combating the problem of human trafficking.

The United Nations defines human trafficking as “the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of persons, by means of threat or use of force.”

Trafficked women are promised a better life in the United States, but in reality they’re being sexually exploited, Batica said. She added that they usually don’t report incidents of abuse.

According to the Minnesota Office of Justice Programs, it’s estimated that between 14,000 and 17,000 people are trafficked in the United States each year. Human trafficking victims are men, women, children and teenagers from all over the world.

Speaking about trafficked Asian women in the United States, FAWN member Corazon Brizuela said that many don’t realize they’re being exploited.

Local organizations like FAWN said they’re doing what they can to help human trafficking victims in Minnesota, but Batica said she wants to focus on the problem internationally.

“We’re trying to save them down the stream, but what’s going on upstream?” Batica said.

Before she came to Minnesota, Wongprajuablap visited Washington and New York on an invitation from the U.S. Department of State.

Wongprajuablap said she wants to see how the laws regarding human trafficking are implemented in the United States versus Thailand.

In addition to meeting with FAWN during her Thursday visit, Wongprajuablap also met with the Minnesota Department of Human Rights and the Civil Society in Minnesota.

She said she would like to see the cooperation between nongovernmental organizations and the federal government applied to Thailand.

According to humantrafficking.org, through which organizations come together to combat human trafficking, Thailand is a destination country for those trafficked from Cambodia, Laos, China, Russia and Uzbekistan for sexual and labor exploitation.

Wongprajuablap said she hopes Thailand and neighboring countries will work together to solve the human trafficking problem.